Rather than include my usual post about Books that Matter, I thought I’d post my thoughts on abridging books. Please enjoy the rant. Next week, pending the apocalypse, will be back to our regular scheduled program.
This week, I ventured to my local library in hopes of making good on a deal/agreement/suggestion put forth by Holmes: Put aside Hugo and read Dumas. Now, I’m all willing to read Dumas (and have been anxiously looking forward to it), but my library seems to be spiting me.
Holmes specifically requested that I read The Count of Monte Cristo (so we can go all former English major on it and DISCUSS). I picked up a copy at my school’s library. Nice, unabridged translation. Had to put it aside as I realized I had a hell of a lot more work to do on the thesis. So, now that I am finished with undergrad, I mosey-ed on down to my local library to get The Count.
Two copies. Both abridged.
Why? I don’t see the point in abridging works, mostly because I feel that if I’m going to put in the effort to read a book, I want to read the whole damn thing. I felt that way about Les Miserables. I feel that way about all books that I read.
Reading abridged books feels like being cheated. I remember my dismay when I realized that those “Great Illustrated Classic” books were abridged (I was a bit slow, despite my reading comprehension, when I was in elementary school). I read their version of Little Women in a day. Imagine my shock when I went to read Little Men (one of the sequels by Louisa May Alcott) a couple of weeks later. It took me nearly a month to read it (bear in mind I was in the third or fourth grade), and I was shocked. Why did this book take me so much longer? Well, it was Alcott’s actual words.
Now, I would like to know who decides what to abridge. Do you take out the “boring parts?” What, exactly, are the boring parts? I wouldn’t consider Hugo’s many many many digressions to be boring–quite the opposite. I find them utterly fascinating (and I paid more attention to the Waterloo stuff the second time through). So what if we have to read 50 pages of stuff to get to a chapter that ultimately dictates how the last, um, 4/5s of the book play out? Considering the Brick is over 1,200 pages, I think that’s perfectly fair.
Of course, abridging can work to one’s favor. For example: The Complete Works of Wm. Shakespeare, Abridged is one of the funniest plays I have ever seen.
And I can’t think of any more good examples of abridgment.
Excuse me while I bury myself in my unabridged copy of Les Miserables. Now if I read French, it would be even better…